It’s About to Cost More to Get Status With United

The carrier is updating its frequent flier program to reflect dollars spent and flying frequency rather than miles flown.

It’s About to Cost More to Get Status With United

United just took the miles out of frequent flier miles.

Photo by Vytautas Kielaitis/Shutterstock

United Airlines has just announced some major changes to its United MileagePlus frequent flier program. Starting in 2020, members will earn points based on the cost of their flights and the number of flights taken—not on the number of miles flown.

Premier qualifying miles, Premier qualifying segments, and Premier qualifying dollars are all going away. Instead, members will earn status based on two variables: Premier qualifying flights (PQFs) and Premier qualifying points (PQPs).

United said the move is intended to do away with things like fare class multipliers and “confusing segment math.” Under the new program, members will receive one Premier qualifying point for each U.S. dollar spent—with only the base fare earning you PQPs (taxes and fees won’t count).

Basic Economy tickets can earn you Premier qualifying points, but not Premier qualifying flights.

United admitted that the spend requirements for each tier are increasing, but it said that on the flipside there will be more ways to earn Premier qualifying points, including preferred seat purchases, paid upgrades, and flights ticketed and operated by Star Alliance partner airlines. (Previously, flights on Star Alliance partner airlines had to be ticketed by United in order to be applicable toward status.)

MileagePlus members who are also primary United MileagePlus Chase card holders will be eligible to earn Premier qualifying points for their annual credit card expenditures.

Whether you have a MileagePlus Chase card or not, all MileagePlus members will be required to fly on a minimum of four United or United Express flights each year to be eligible for Premier status.

So what will be the new breakdown for each tier?

  • Silver status: a minimum of $4,000 and 12 flights per year, or $5,000 on at least 4 flights
  • Gold status: a minimum of $8,000 and 24 flights per year, or $10,000 on at least 4 flights
  • Platinum status: a minimum of $12,000 and 36 flights per year, or $15,000 on at least 4 flights
  • 1K status: a minimum of $18,000 and 54 flights per year, or $24,000 on at least 4 flights

The fallout is that people who are true frequent fliers, those who actually take many flights per year, as well as travelers who spend a lot on their United flights, will benefit from the changes. But travelers hoping to bank on a handful of long-haul flights per year to rack up their miles will be out of luck.
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Michelle Baran is a deputy editor at AFAR where she oversees breaking news, travel intel, airline, cruise, and consumer travel news. Baran joined AFAR in August 2018 after an 11-year run as a senior editor and reporter at leading travel industry newspaper Travel Weekly.
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